Since we moved, I have started to walk to work a different way. (Why, yes I do walk to work. Thank you for being impressed. I’m averaging about 8000 steps a day to and from work since you ask and yes I am quite pleased with myself. Thank you).

I walk down quite an “interesting” street and, if someone was glassed outside Boomerngs last week I don’t let it bother me because I am well away from there by 5.30 pm. In the morning, I walk alongside a stream of secondary school pupils, on their way to an establishment that is never going to give Westminster Prep a run for its money in the results department. The girls are noisy with those wobbly hair buns on top of their heads and beautifully applied make up. They are carrying school bags which are just big enough to hold their phones and their fags (FOW 2s observation) but they seem happy and boisterous and you don’t really fear for their futures.

Occasionally though, you see a child and they are a little bit different. Their clothes aren’t good – especially the shoes and they don’t look that clean. Their parent/carer doesn’t look great either – usually pushing a trolley which has seen better days. These days, poverty can be easier to cover sometimes. With the advent of fast, cheap fashion – people can sometimes be turned out better than they would have been able to be in the past, without handouts and the like. I myself have known what it’s like to go to Dorothy Perkins with clothing vouchers – I know a little bit of how that feels. (On a side note – fast fashion is complicated. I know that sometimes it is made in terrible circumstances but you may find that the poor in this country appreciate the availability of clothes that ordinary people wear that stops them standing out as deprived. Like I said. Complicated). When you see these children, it gives you pause, You wonder about their home life, their friendships, their future.

Lowborn by Kerry Ann Hudson is a book about that kind of a life. As a child of an absent father and an alcoholic mother, her early life was marked by a succession of homes, various “dads”, school uniforms from charity shops that made people laugh at her and the need to grow up much sooner than a child should. More often than not she was her Mum’s rescuer rather than her child. In her teenage years she “went astray” drinking and sleeping around. There was a brief time at an evangelical church but she doesn’t seem to have made any contact with God. It was just a place to meet young people like her. It is so well written – brilliantly evoking her life and times. The book jumps back to her childhood and then forward and she visits the towns of her youth and tries to deal with the feelings these visits stir up.

Hudson is still trying to come to terms with her past. She is a successful novelist but still feels affected by the things that happened. Her young life was one lived at the outer margins. I think that many of those who live in poverty may not have the back story that she had but it is still shocking. At the end of the book she leaves us with figures that are meant to stir us up

“we live in the world’s sixth-richest economy but one-fifth of us live in poverty”

Sometimes this is a really difficult read and it makes no apologies for that. She is, however, a walking talking beacon of hope that people can recover, albeit with scars. Recommended.



  1. February 10, 2020 / 1:14 am

    Thanks for this review. And I’m well impressed with the walking to work (I’m interested in how long it takes and would it be much quicker in a car, or are there rush hour delays?) I’m increasingly concerned that we Christians (meaning us nice people in the pews on Sunday) are losing touch with poverty. Yes, we support CAP, and we put stuff in the box that goes to the Food Bank, and may occasionally buy a Big Issue. But we don’t really engage with families who are struggling to put food on the table, and dress their kids. I don’t have any satisfactory answers, and I have tremendous admiration for the people who are getting involved. But I think the rich/poor divide is getting worse. Furthermore I’m conscious that those in poverty are not getting the decent education they deserve, so they remain stuck at the bottom. There’s a storm raging outside keeping me awake. And inside my head I’m raging too…

    • lesleyps91
      February 10, 2020 / 8:23 pm

      It is overwhelming I think. You feel you try and do your bit like you say but it’s so difficult – even more so maybe now – after austerity for people to pull themselves up and out. Even working is no guarantee of avoiding the poverty trap either.

  2. February 10, 2020 / 1:45 pm

    Even in the ‘nice’ village school where I taught, there were children who were obviously from a family below the poverty line. Some of them needed breakfast, some needed clothing, and some just needed comfort.

    • lesleyps91
      February 10, 2020 / 8:15 pm

      Thinking about it, I went to a nice tiny primary school as well and I remember at least two children who stood out because of the way they were dressed. To my shame I think we kind of accepted that it was the way of the world.

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